National Science Week keeps getting better and better in Phalaborwa, thanks to the tireless efforts of organisers who this year brought around 2,500 school children to the Lulekani town hall outside Phalaborwa to get a glimpse of the many exciting opportunities that a career in science can offer.
With demonstrations, displays and presentations, the pupils were able to discover how studying science at school can lead to a careers as diverse as capturing rhino, predicting the next thundershower, flying a helicopter or a jet plane, or working in a laboratory studying diseases.
One of the organisers of the week's activities, Dr Dave Balfour from the Ndlovu Node of the South African Environmental Observation Network (Saeon), said that the children were most fascinated by the display put on by the South African Weather Service.
Almost as popular was the Air Force's display of survival gear and military equipment, including cross-sectioned missiles. The South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) display of "GeeWhiz" chemistry caused more than one stunned gasp, and a good deal of laughter and interaction.
Dr Balfour says that one of the underlying agendas during the week was to make it more comfortable for young girls to consider pursuing a career in science. This was highlighted by the presence of a female keynote speaker, and presentations by female scientists, such as Kruger's vet Dr Danni Govender.
With help from the Palabora Foundation, National Science Week kicked off in Phalaborwa with an 8.5km fun run, and was concluded with a variety of poetry and drama presentations specially prepared for science week by the pupils of several schools.
Limpopo's MEC for agriculture Dikeledi Magadzi attended the closing ceremony on Saturday, May 20, 2006. She was so impressed by the presentation given by 12 girls from Mhala Mhala primary school that she asked them to repeat it.
Her enthusiasm for Phalaborwa's celebration of science week was obvious when she asked to be invited to join in again next year, even if her services as a speaker were not required. Balfour says that this year's science week was a step up from 2005, and the lessons learnt this year would go towards making 2007's events better.
Saeon has a commitment to public education and outreach, especially in terms of science education, and Balfour commented, "We are slowly starting to make progress. It's as much a sense of providing an opportunity for kids and engaging in a process which, over time, will make a real difference in the life of kids."